Graphical Musical Notation

WFMU's Beware of the Blog, one of my favorite blogs, has a great post about Graphic Musical Notation.

Daptone Records

Daptone Records is a label that makes music in the same spirit (and soul) of old Stax and Mowtown recordings. They apparently record it all in their own Brooklyn-based studio (I'm looking for more info on the studio).

Listen to Menahan Street Band - Make the Road by Walking (.mp3)

Patchbay Planning

It started as scribbling on a piece of paper and turned into something more detailed and sophisticated in Adobe Illustrator. Even with just 96 points in two patchbays there are lots of variables to work out: workflow, locations and groupings of the gear, length of cable, connector types, grounding and more. It'd be great to invent software that does all this.


Finally, I got all my snakes done. Making my own is saving me hundreds of dollars, but it can be tedious– I mean, meditative work. I did some fierce comparison shopping online and ended up getting the cable from Redco (their house brand cable, same specs as Mogami cable) and the connectors from Marketek.
Next step is to wire these to the patchbay. Then all my gear can finally talk to each other.

I also found some cheap, decent longframe cables here. $8.89 for a 24" cable is easily half the price of others out there. They ARE molded cables, but I don't expect to wear them out any time soon. For non-molded cables, Mr. Patchbay is easily the best and also has great prices on all other things patchbay.


"Cymatics is the study of wave phenomena. It is typically associated with the physical patterns produced through the interaction of sound waves in a medium."
- Read more in the Wikipedia entry

And be sure to view all parts of the above video:
Video Part 2, Video Part 3, Video Part 4

Beer + Moog + Ampex

Check out this classic Schaefer Beer commerical:

Even non-dorks will notice the modular Moog that's getting madly tweaked in this commercial, but the more astute dorks will also identify the enormous Ampex MM1000 (granddad of the MM1200). Introduced in 1969, the MM1000 was the first 16-track tape machine. It was basically a converted video recorder transport with 16 channels of mono audio electronics which, needless to say, made it absolutely huge.

(No dork-points for spotting the gratuitous oscilloscope to mustachioed Edd Kalehoff's right.)

Searsound: Whence came the tape machine?

The guy that sold me the MM1200 claimed that it had once been owned by Searsound. The studio's namesake, Walter Sear, is a music recording legend, having produced, engineered and/or performed on classic albums including those by Paul McCartney, David Bowie, and Steely Dan.

Sear was early adopter and evangelist of the Moog synthesizer and friends with the late Bob Moog (you can see them together in the Moog film). And besides playing a mean theremin, he was a professional tuba player for 45 years, and even manufactured tubas. Check out his scathing response to an EQ magazine article that apparently dissed tuba players.

When you've been around as long as Walter Sear and had that career, you deserve to be a bit crotchety. He's written a number of articles about audio engineering and the demise of the recording industry. No minced words or gumdrops from Grandpa Sear.

Read more:
Walter Sear interview in Stereophile
Article in Mix Magazine
Article in TapeOp

btw- On the Searsound website, they list a 1" 8-track MM1200 in their Studio "A" gear list.

The mountain men

The piano movers who manhandled the machine up to the second floor were a perfectly diverse NYC trio, as if the casting director from Star Trek also made hiring descisions for the moving company:
"The Russian", a sturdy, bald character who on the BQE (yes, I rode with them) pointed out the spot where his "ambulance" died - I really dunno, sounded sketchy.

Next up, the enormous, 6' 8" black guy from Harlem with biceps as big as my thighs (which aren't wimpy). He blared music videos from his phone and talked excitedly about a building he'd seen in Germany with 4 different colors of brick. Seems the blue brick was especially surprising.

Rounding out the crew was the "Long Islander", a world-weary character who leaned on the steering wheel like a cowboy leaning on the horn of his saddle.

When the guys saw the MM1200, Mr. Harlem said "Oh, that's a baby!". Earlier in the day the 3 of them had treaded a 7-foot grand piano up 4 narrow flights of stairs, so you can understand why a little 400 lb. box of motors and circuits looks like a piece of cake.

But for something so baby-ish, there was a lot of grunting and sweating, but once in side the building they had it up the stairs within a minute.

The mountain moves in

Today I welcomed the second big addition to the "studio", the venerable Ampex MM1200.

Why would someone invest in an finicky, 30-year old, 400 lb. tape machine? The sound. Besides being proven in the recording of innumerable rock records, the MM1200 is an all discrete machine with three transformers to every channel. Despite it's crusty vintage-ness, the MM1200 is quite a serviceable machine, in large part due to its discrete audio circuits. Also, there's a large community of MM1200 owners who passionately care for their machines and swap parts and advice. A lot of the experts hang out

Just think of the MM1200 as the dork equivalent of a vintage sports car.

My MM1200 is set up for 1" 8-track operation (Hey, only 50 lbs. per channel!).

The rare 10-channel Yamaha PM1000

My "new" mixer arrived today, the oft hyped and overly-parted out Yamaha PM1000 (or is it overly-hyped and oft parted out?). Either way, it's a well-built, modular, discrete console from the days of disco, a big, heavy beast that will be a nice companion to my forthcoming big, heavy tape machine.

Yes, this very mixer has been subject to the channel racking craze, but for my 8-track setup it should do the trick for now (and the price was right).

This guy has a nice breakdown (literally) of the mixer, it's features, and potential modifications.

Check out the manual here:
Yamaha pm1000 Manual Part 1
Yamaha pm1000 Manual Part 2

I'm mostly keen to just use the board as is and before I ever get into some mods for this thing I would probably recap it. The next thing to do would be to add direct outs, even just unbalanced outs.

Modules are pretty readily available if I decide to add more. Though if I do, where will the cats sleep?